Surrey’s Ollie Pope pays back England selectors with Test career best innings

Surrey star Ollie Pope repaid the faith shown in him by England’s new management by hitting a Test career best 145 yesterday as his country piled on 383 runs against New Zealand at Trent Bridge.

But the 24-year-old revealed he feared the worst when taking a call from new coach Brendon McCullum last month.

Given that Pope’s only contribution on England’s recent tour of the Caribbean was as drinks waiter, he went from expecting to be told to continue scoring heavily for Surrey to learning he was inked in to bat at three against the Kiwis.

“I was down in Cornwall, having a few days away on the coast, when I got a call from a number I didn’t recognise. It was Baz [McCullum] on the phone,” said Pope.

“I wasn’t expecting amazing news at the time, but he said: ‘You’re going to be in the squad’. I remember having a little celebration with my dog – I think I gave her a first bump – and then he said: ‘You’re going to bat three as well’.”

It was a decision that drew raised eyebrows bearing in mind Pope – who is averaging 69.50 for Surrey in this summer’s County Championship – had previously only batted at number three once in his red-ball career.

A double failure in the first Test at Lord’s last week drew criticism that the move was not in England’s interest, nor that of Pope, who travelled to Nottingham with just 86 runs from his last nine Test innings.

“Once I got over the line today I was buzzing,” said Pope yesterday. “You have to take in those moments, which is something I’ve come to realise over the past couple of years.

“It’s not been the easiest ride over the last year or so, a few tough tours away and I didn’t play a massive amount last summer. But I’ve never doubted my game for Test cricket.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot about my game and a lot about Test cricket and, hopefully, I can now take that forward and use this as a sort of starting point with that bank of knowledge that I’ve gained.”

Pope added: “Cooky [former captain Sir Alastair Cook] said to Ben Stokes in the dressing room last week that he tried to find enjoyment in every day he pulled on an England shirt, and we’re really feeling that as a group at the moment.

“That’s allowed me to play my game and given me a bit more confidence. I’ve started seeing everything in a bit more of a positive light, because that’s what I do for Surrey and it’s what has brought me a lot of success. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed so far.”

Pope also paid tribute to Joe Root, with whom he forged a 187-run stand in 42 overs for England’s third wicket yesterday, which ended with Root 163 not out.

“It was awesome out there. I really enjoyed it, batting with Rooty. He is unbelievable and doing it week in, week out,” said Pope.

“He is so relaxed when he bats. He is in so much control. From a technical point of view, he scores so many runs down to third man. That’s what I do when I am playing well as well, so it’s a good little reminder for me.

“I had a chat with Rooty about leaving the ball as I think my weakness was probably that fifth stump area.

“I know I am in a pretty good place if I am cutting the ball and I have learnt a lot from Rooty. I wasn’t perfect so there are still things to work on but hopefully it is a stepping stone.”

All three results remain possible with England, on 473-5, trailing New Zealand by 80 with two days to go. But, whatever the outcome at Trent Bridge, the impact of this Test on Pope’s international career may well prove to be a turning point.




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